Coping and resilience among Syrian refugee adolescents : a mixed methods approach




Arango, Sarah Christina

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Much of the literature on refugee youths’ mental health has focused on psychological distress, leaving a gap in our understanding of what contributes to psychological well-being among this population. To address this gap, this mixed methods study employed a resilience framework to explore the links between exposure to potentially traumatic events (PTEs), daily stressors, coping flexibility, well-being, and psychological distress among Syrian refugee adolescents living in Jordan.

The qualitative section of this study included eleven individual interviews and one focus group with three adolescents. The study used constructivist-interpretivist grounded theory and the critical incident technique, to identify stressors, coping strategies, coping flexibility, and resilience processes among Syrian refugee youth. Stressors reported by youth, included separation from family and friends, access to basic needs, and discrimination and systemic oppression. Coping strategies used by youth, included spending time with family and friends, getting emotional support, distraction, and spending time alone. Coping flexibility emerged as a developmental process that aided resilience and helped youth cope with discrimination. Finally, key resilience processes that emerged, included education, independence, and hopes for the future.

The quantitative section of this study included one hundred and thirteen youth. An exploratory factor analysis with the Kidcope scale revealed two factors (positive and negative coping strategies). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to analyze two models; one model included psychological distress as an outcome and one model included well-being as an outcome. Mediation models were run to examine relationships between PTEs, daily stressors, coping flexibility, and mental health outcomes. Results demonstrated that daily stressors fully mediated the relationship between PTEs and distress and were associated with negative coping techniques. Daily stressors did not mediate the relationship between PTEs and well-being. Coping flexibility did not mediate PTEs and mental health outcomes, however, negative coping strategies were associated with distress and positive coping strategies were associated with well-being. The findings from the current study highlight unique resilience processes and coping mechanisms used by Syrian refugee youth and demonstrate the need to develop interventions that are culturally- and contextually-grounded. Theoretical and practical implications of these findings are discussed.


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